Steve Jobs- the modern example of a classic liberal

This past week we have been discussing classical liberalism and civic republicanism. Jennet asked us to think of someone that embodies either. Over the break, I watched a couple documentaries, and even read a biography on Steve Jobs. He’s a fascinating person. So when we were reading these articles on classic liberalism. He was the one person that stuck out in my head.
I found this video of Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech at Stanford. He shares three stories that are embedded with classic liberalism and individuality. But one quote that stuck out to me was towards the end of his speech when he says, “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped with dogma, which is living with the results of other peoples thinking. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition- they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Everything about this quote screams individuality and insists on the dangers of group thinking. It goes against everything that civic republicans hold near and dear to them.
Over the course of ten years, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak took Apple Computers, a company that was founded in Jobs’ parents garage into a multi-billion dollar company. How did they do it? With individual creative genius. According to Emerson and Rand, there are many paths to finding the good. Jobs embodies this wholly when he drops out of college because he is not interested in the required courses. After he dropped out, he began attending random classes that he found interesting or wanted to learn more about. In retrospect, he was glad he followed his intuition because he was able to create something that was more useful to the world. Like Emerson and Rand, Jobs would have found conformity a sin- the man didn’t even wear shoes for most of his life! Most people would think of the good as attending and graduating college, getting a decent job and living a middle class life. Jobs didn’t understand the concept and felt it was a waste of time, he envisioned more for himself.
Last class we talked about the bigger economic risks of being an individual. These can also be proven as Jobs was fired from his own company because he was considered too big of a financial risk- he basically did whatever he wanted with the company and designed anything and everything he could get his hands on. (Even though when he was fired, it didn’t really matter financially, he was set for life. He still viewed this as a personal failure however, because he loved his job.) He didn’t let this failure stop him from creating, however. He then went on to form Next and Pixar, Next was bought by Apple in an interesting turn of events and Pixar became the most successful animation studio in the world. Later, when Apple was on the verge of innovative and financial collapse, the company extended their hand to Jobs and asked for him to come back and use his individual creativity to revive the company. He then became the CEO of his company again. Jobs’ individual failures didn’t always apply to his job, even though that was the most public. But he saw those failures as building blocks to help him accomplish something greater the next time. Though the fear of failure is in all of us in some way, Jobs and Emerson and Ran would say that it’s better to try something on your own and fail- at least you tried. The greatest failure would be to have never tried at all and go along with the group. In this case, you are failing yourself- and this is the greatest failure of all.

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6 Responses to Steve Jobs- the modern example of a classic liberal

  1. lgallar1 says:

    This is an interesting piece. I found it fun that you thought of Steve Jobs when you read or thought of classical liberalism. I love the fact that you choose someone with excellent passion, motivation, dedication and independence that is Steve Jobs. His speech for Stanford is as amazing as J.K Rowling speech at Harvard. He is a true inspiration to do what you want, and really pushes the cheesy quote, follow your heart. But, I wish you would have talked more about classical liberalism and what articles stuck out that reminded you of Steve Jobs, I am dying of curiosity. Speak more in depth of classical liberalism while relating it to the Apple company, Steve Jobs and the things he accomplished. My point is, I wish you would have gone deep into the subject of classical liberalism and do this amazing thing by connecting it with Steve Jobs.

  2. ffleming72 says:

    Steve Jobs was a great choice for classical liberalism. This reminds me of a story I heard recently about three Ivy League Scholars that dropped out and made their own business. They questioned the norms of society and now they have a car rental business out of international airports. This resembles the idea of the “American Dream,” that we all try to achieve. I also think you could of gone into deeper into classical liberalism. It was a great blog read and I enjoyed it very much.

  3. jenny9213 says:

    I truly enjoyed reading the blog which was quite inspiring in the sense that Steve Jobs stood for individuality and living each situation as it came regardless of the long term repercussions they may entitle. I think that you successfully managed to integrate the class topics with the life Steve Jobs led.
    However, I found myself delving into deeper questions on how Steve Jobs resembles, specifically, classical liberalism. Through the blog, I did capture the way Steve Job’s whole life was unregulated by what’s expected or common, but I wanted to see the essence of classical liberalism explicitly laid out in regards to the beliefs or stand that Steve Jobs had personally.

  4. tylermastin93 says:

    This was truly one of the best blog post I have read yet. When I think of Classic Liberals I think of political visionaries like Ron Paul or other Libertarians, never would I have thought of Steve Jobs the mind behind the iPhone and the MacBook (which I’m writing on) to have been a great example of Classic Liberals. I would like to bring up the last few lines of your post, “Though the fear of failure is in all of us in some way, Jobs and Emerson and Ran would say that it’s better to try something on your own and fail- at least you tried. The greatest failure would be to have never tried at all and go along with the group. In this case, you are failing yourself- and this is the greatest failure of all.” This should be the motto that all Classic Liberals should live for. Really good job!

  5. vcodrington says:

    This speech was absolutely amazing the first time I saw it live in person when my cousin was graduating from Stanford, and was truly amazing watching it again. Steve Jobs is definitely a vital example and plays a key role when exemplifying individualism, and venturing out. You did an excellent job displaying the success Jobs accomplished, and even when he “failed”, he still ventured out and created more. Jobs lived his life without intervention, and without regulation. As I read this, I continued to have one question, How does classical liberalism play into Apple, or even Pixar? Althought it may be quite obvious, it is best to assume the crowd knows nothing, and you have to spell it out for everyone. You did an amazing job highlighting Jobs, and conveying certain aspects, however more specificity on classical liberalism would of been beneficial.

  6. kdmflag says:

    I would heartily agree with your assessment of Steve Jobs as a shining example of the classical liberal school of thought. Jobs for forever the individualist, forging new territories of innovation and technological breakthrough. But never alone. Jobs, like many during the Silicon Valley boom of the mid 70s, received immeasurable assistance from his fore bearers at Xerox and IBM. In fact, many, most notably in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: A Story of Success, posit that many legendary figures of history are simply ‘the right people at the right point in history’. This by no means alters the fact that Jobs’ exemplifies many laudable traits of the classical liberal, but it may change the idea of Rand’s lone genius breaking away from the strictures of society to bestow glorious blessings upon the masses.

    Your post also raised an interesting thought within me as well. If Steve Jobs fits the mold of the ideal classical liberal, what can we say of his counterpart, Bill Gates? Can we honestly claim Bill Gates embodies the traits any civic republican would be proud of? There is no doubt that Gates is a global communitarian. His countless works of altruism benefit people around the globe, and his efforts to revitalize Seattle and its surroundings are well known. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation shapes the very world with their donations, donations allotted on a utilitarian criteria via committee. Yet he seems to fall very short of exemplar status. The Gates Foundation has come under criticism for exerting influence along with the donations: running roughshod over scientists, school administrators, and Boards of Directors. This shows divergence away from the ‘we’ of civic republicanism to the ‘ me over you’ we see in many other forms of governance. Yet he persists to build a more perfect future, for everyone for a global community.

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